Cultivate the sour gooseberry and experience the sweet after-taste that the fruit is famed for. This was the mantra that turned a farmer into a businessman in drought-prone Sidlaghatta taluk in Chickballapur district .Farmer V. Narayanaswamy, who used to be involved in the less-lucrative rearing of silkworms, now earns lakhs of rupees annually from his five-acre dryland in Jangamasigehalli.
Planting free gooseberry saplings under the watershed development project paid him rich dividends. “I planted 180 saplings in 2003. Although the fruit yield began from 2007, quality yield started in 2010,” said Mr. Narayanaswamy, who has now turned entrepreneur using his earnings judiciously. He began pumping his crop income into a small enterprise and now owns a distribution agency of reputed mattresses in Chintamani.
The farmer, who studied up to fifth standard, earned Rs. 6.9 lakh this year by marketing gooseberry, jamun and tamarind fruit. But most of his farm income comes from gooseberry planted over three acres of land.
A project that worked
Things have begun to change for the better for farmers like Mr. Narayanaswamy, with the implementation of the National Bank for Agricultural Rural Development (NABARD)-aided Watershed Development Project (Rs. 79.26 lakh).
The project was implemented by the State government in five drought-prone villages in Sidlaghatta taluk through the Navachaitanya Urban and Rural Development Society, said NABARD officials S.S. Tayde and Arun Tallur. “Planting gooseberry was the turning point in my life. With no investment, I am now earning over Rs. 6 lakh a year from my farmland,” said the farmer. While other small and marginal farmers planted cashew and mango saplings and earned less, Mr. Narayanaswamy’s success is evident.
He bagged the Progressive Farmer Award in 2010. He harvests the crop twice in a season, during October-December and in April-May. The crop is auctioned every year and the merchants pay him money in advance.
Superior quality gooseberry fetches Rs. 25 a kg while the inferior ones are dried and sold at Rs. 15 a kg.
Horticulturists say gooseberry requires less water, and maintenance is almost nil. It can survive even in extreme drought conditions.
Besides chutney and pickles, an array of dishes and ayruvedic medicines are made from gooseberry.
From zero investment to earnings of Rs. 6 lakh a year